Sunday afternoon I spent some time on a sunny park bench alongside the St. Clair River, and despite the blue water vista before me, my head was bent deeply into the pages of a book. So engrossed was I that it took a moment to register that someone was standing in front of me and had in fact posed a question.
“That must be a heckuva book,” the elderly man said. He stood before me, hand in hand with his lady friend, as they walked the boardwalk on an afternoon constitutional.
“It definitely is,” I answered, emerging from my reverie.
“I bet it’s a love story,” he said with a smile.
“Well, not exactly – not a conventional love story.” I held the book up so he could see the title. “It’s called Web of Angels and the author is Canadian,” I offered, which seemed appropriate to state since we were staring across the river at Canada.
“Canadian, eh!” he quipped (quite a jokester, this one.)
“Plus she’s a friend of mine,” I said, although I wasn’t about to try explaining that we had met on the internet and were blogging friends.
“Well then,” he went on, “if she’s a friend you have to like her book whether it’s any good or not!”
We all laughed good humoredly. “It doesn’t matter, because I would love this book no matter who wrote it,” I replied.
From the first absolutely gripping chapter (and I defy anyone who reads that first chapter to put the book down without going further), Web of Angels catches the reader by the heartstrings and keeps you enthralled. Lilian Nattel takes us into the world of multiple personalities (or DID-dissociative identity disorder) and illuminates this disorder in ways no one has yet to do in popular culture.
The novel centers around a normal domestic situation – Sharon Lewis, a wife and mother of three, who lives with her family in the historic neighborhood of Seaton Grove. Sharon’s childhood was anything but idyllic – it was in fact marred with so much violence and abuse that she created multiple personalities to help her manage all the horror she was forced to live through. These personalities have remained with her even though her emotional situation has stabilized. But they move almost seamlessly in and out of her life, so subtly that no one really knows they exist.
Things change, though, when Heather Edwards, a 16-year-old pregnant neighbor, commits suicide. The girls younger sister Cathy is a friend of the Lewis’ and as she spends more and more time with Sharon and her family, Sharon begins to sense a familiarity about the girl which indicates she might have “others” too. And when the reason for Cathy’s DID comes to light, it is more horrific than one could even imagine.
What is so stunning about this novel is the way Nattel makes these people and their situation so real, so true to life that you feel as if you might know them. And so we realize that this disorder could be all around us, that people who develop DID are not “certifiable,” but are often normal folks in every other way. In fact, it is because Sharon and Cathy have multiple personalities that they has been able to survive, so in many ways DID is viewed not as a disorder to be eradicated or cured but as a positive way to manage extreme stress and trauma.
And although Web of Angels is not, as I told my friend in the park, a “conventional” love story, love plays an important part in the outcome. Because Sharon has finally learned about love from her family, she is able to offer it to Cathy (and her “others”) and set them on the road to healing.
From reading Lilian’s blog, I knew she had a natural gift for description and a beautiful writing style. What I didn’t know was that she was such a good story-teller, or able to create such vivid and sympathetic characters. Web of Angels proves she is all capable of all that and more. It’s a fascinating book, but also an important book, allowing us a glimpse inside secret lives we might not otherwise ever see.
It’s a heckuva book, alright.
For additional background on the inspiration and writing of this book, visit Lilian’s website, here.
To purchase Web of Angels from Amazon, go here.